A Record Investment

by Tom Damm

 3…2…1…  On cue, EPA, state and local officials dug their shovels into the softened dirt to formally kick off major upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in Reading, Pennsylvania.

There was reason to be all smiles as the battery of professional and smart phone cameras captured the moment.  The improvements will contribute to local economic growth and lead to cleaner plant discharges to the Schuylkill River, where concerted efforts along the waterway are improving a drinking water source for more than 1.5 million people.

For EPA, it was the largest amount of water infrastructure funding ever applied to a single project in the Mid-Atlantic region – nearly $150 million – a fact that EPA Acting Regional Administrator Cecil Rodrigues shared with the audience at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The record sum of low-interest financing from EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) was provided to Reading through actions of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST.

Coincidentally, the day before the event, the PENNVEST board approved a series of projects that brought the collective total of its infrastructure investment efforts to more than $8 billion over nearly three decades.   The CWSRF and EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund together supplied about half of that total.

The upgrades to the Fritz Island plant will allow for growth in the system that now treats sewage for about 200,000 residents in Reading and a dozen suburban communities.  By taking advantage of the 1 percent CWSRF rate compared to current market rates for bonds, Reading is expected to save almost $2.5 million over 20 years.

The plant upgrades are targeted for completion by late 2019 when officials will trade their shiny, ceremonial shovels for sets of oversized scissors.

You can learn more here about the CWSRF and the projects financed in your area.  And check out this link for information on a major boost in funding just approved for EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

 

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